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Science-based dating


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Admission to an MSc programme in Archaeology.


This course will focus on the following dating methods:
Radiometric dating: radiocarbon including advanced applications (statistical analysis, reservoir effects), proper assessment of the data obtained.
Luminescence dating: TL, OSL.
Geology: K/Ar, U-series isotopes, ESR relevant for archaeology.
Chemical methods: racemisation, stratigraphies (magnetic, tephra, ice, marine stages).
Dating Pleistocene sites.

Course set-up:
1) C14: natural radioactivity, dating principle, C14 timescale, isotope effects, calibration.
2) C14: statistics, wiggle matching, Bayesian analysis, applications in archaeology.
3) C14: reservoir-effects & stable isotopes, C14 for the archaeologist (“what’s in a date?”).
4) TL, OSL (guest lecture by J. Wallinga).
5) isotope geology relevant for archaeology: dating by U-series, K/Ar, ESR.
6) chemical methods and biostratigraphy: racemisation, palynology, isotope stages (lecture by T. van Kolfschoten).
7) dating Pleistocene sites (Boxgrove, Happisburgh, Schöningen, Dmanisi, etc.)

Course objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of dating based on scientific methods;

  • Ability to assess chronological inference in archaeological research questions.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures;

  • 420 pages of literature.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Written examination.

Assessment deadline

The exam date can be found in the exam schedule.

Reading list

  • M. Walker, Quaternary Dating Methods.

  • Handouts.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact J. van der Plicht.